The Internet is a perpetual machine that produces content every minute of the day. Consider these figures, for instance, from software company Domo’s Data Never Sleeps 5.0 report. 4,146,600 YouTube videos are viewed by users, 456,000 tweets are sent on Twitter, and Instagram users post 46,740 photos every minute!
From individual bloggers on social media platforms to celebrities and brands, the content producing machine continues to run ceaselessly in pursuit of the next viral story that will bring more traffic and revenues. Thousands of articles are published each day, but capturing the attention of consumers who are averse to reading entire pieces is easier said than done. As a result, content creators and writers are constantly under pressure to create engaging content and articles, often resorting to what are termed as ‘clickbait’ headlines and fake news.
While these headlines are aimed to grab people’s attention and offer that extra bit of mileage needed to attract brands and advertisers, they often end up passing misinformation or content whose veracity is just plain questionable. A single bad story can bring a deluge of bad press and PR for any brand, like it did for PepsiCo around the 2016 US elections. PepsiCo faced a boycott of sorts of its brands after fake news stories were circulated on social media misquoting its CEO Indra Nooyi as saying that Donald Trump supporters should “take their business elsewhere.”
There is a need for publishers to be vigilant to ward off fake or deceptive content associated to them from appearing in the public domain. For this, they need to apply the following solutions as part of their management strategy:
Transparent and clear headlines
Digital media is driven by headlines. A massive number of articles are written simply to gain maximum viewership, and use deceitful and spammy headlines to achieve that. This can have a negative impact when discerning readers find that they do not get the information being promoted.
News publishers have to compete with fake news peddlers without giving up on their authenticity.
To create strong and engaging headlines, publishers need to ensure that their message is succinct and conveys upfront the value which readers will derive. They should identify what parts of the content are likely to connect with the readers, impress them, and make them want to return for more. These elements should be highlight in the headline in a concise manner, but also communicate the message effectively.
Leveraging knowledge from authentic third-party sources
One of the key reasons for communication based problems on online media is the dearth of credible and transparent information. This is due to lack of sources or real evidence cited in articles to back the claims being made. As a result, readers either do not trust the information at all or they trust it completely, based solely on the credibility of the brand, which can be worse. We have seen in the past that both these scenarios can be damaging if the content ends up being categorized as misinformation.
Digital news publishers should also create a mechanism of checks and authentications through unbiased and reliable sources to confirm the veracity of the information.
Emphasize on conveying the brand value
News brands must think about the value-addition they can bring to the people’s lives. Today, specialization is valued much more than having a half-baked general opinion on every issue. Once a brand establishes itself as a value-enhancer in a particular space, it can pass on insights to the readers. The promise of similar exchange of information with sustained quality in the future helps a brand create a loyal user base. Once a brand has identified its area of expertise it wants to focus on, those responsible for the brand’s communications should work with writers and publications to make sure that the audience is effectively educated on a particular issue.
Publishers must leverage technology to address the issue. Technology can detect fake news and deter the spread of incorrect information. Artificial Intelligence can sift through million of data points to identify the patterns and subtle changes to mark fake news.
Programmatic platforms should have verification built-in. This demand can come from the brands which stand to lose a great deal if fake news gets associated with them.
News Industry Efforts
News organisations and guilds have to put concerted efforts to combat the issue of fake news. They must issue guidelines to their members to hold true to the journalistic values and integrity. Guilds should also encourage training for the editors and journalists on the newer technologies used in the newsroom.
—by Chirdeep Shetty, Chief Executive Officer, Quintype Technologies India Pvt. Ltd....